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Product-Led Innovation – a Q&A with Joe Dunleavy

 
 

Innovation | Joe Dunleavy |
14 February 2022

Innovation begins with an idea … very true, but to bring that idea to full fruition, you also need to know what and how to innovate. We’re lucky to have an expert in our midst who we can ask for advice! Joe Dunleavy is Endava’s Head of Innovation, and he joined us to answer 5 questions about product-led innovation and some key reminders for businesses who want to innovate.

1. Thanks for joining us, Joe. You describe approaching innovation through a product lens. Why is this?

Innovation can be complex, but it shouldn’t be scary – the key lies in how you approach it. Rather than launch straight into innovating, e.g. exploring what new AI tools or VR technologies are available, it’s essential to first establish what you’re trying to achieve. So, what I mean by a product lens is first defining a value-led outcome and then engineering a product or solution that delivers it. Once you have this, then you can start thinking about which exciting tools and technologies are best suited to get you there.

2. So, how do you best prepare for innovation?

For us at Endava, there are two core tenets that should dictate your first few steps:

The first is understanding what value you are looking to drive and the user persona associated with that. The concept of user personas comes from design thinking. Its principles keep the end user front-and-centre in all the decision-making and builds something around their needs.

The second is taking advantage of open innovation. This broadens horizons and recruits outside help. Try reaching beyond your organisation – be they partners, a community, suppliers, or existing customers. Involving a cross-section of groups like these generates diverse ideas and brings about a much deeper understanding and appreciation of the users you’re building for. You may end up running a hackathon or ideas workshop, but the point is you’re sharing the load and encouraging a much wider pool of talent to contribute.

3. Are there particular stages or processes when innovating that are crucial and shouldn’t be overlooked?

Yes, testing and learning. The more you test, the more you learn, and the more you fail – and it’s better and cheaper to fail earlier rather than later. Get early exposure with your end users and stakeholders to figure out what does and doesn’t work, taking on and integrating their feedback. It becomes a cycle of learning and tweaking.

Whether we like it or not, innovation takes many iterations. Dyson’s first vacuum is a great example of this: there were over 5,000 prototypes before the final successful iteration went to market. It is the cycle of testing, learning, and feedback which helps get a product to the place it needs to be.

4. What are common mistakes companies make when approaching innovation?

If you’ve never engaged in the innovation process before or are looking to bring something disruptive to market, getting executive support is essential. Incremental innovation is typically an easier sell to senior leadership, but being truly disruptive is hard. Without the air cover of executive sponsorship, the inevitable speed bumps and hurdles make the process almost untenable.

I’d also add having a general appreciation of the complexity, challenges, and time innovating takes. It’s not a straightforward process. It’s not easy. But when done properly and given the care and attention it needs, innovating can really take a business to the next level.

5. How can Endava support organisations on their innovation journeys?

At Endava, we are excited about innovation, and we’ve had success with it. Regardless of whether you’re not quite sure where to start, have a mad idea in your head that you don’t know what to do with, or you may just need some extra fuel to get a project over the line, we can help. 

Innovating at speed lies at the core of remaining competitive, so don’t wait for a specific milestone before you come knocking. We will co-create beside you. Half-baked ideas can become fully baked with our support.

Joe Dunleavy

Head of Innovation

Joe is an experienced executive in the Innovation, Software Delivery, FinTech and Business areas. In previous positions, he has held several leadership roles including Innovation Head, Interim CIO, Software Development Lead, and Technical Project Manager. His experience spreads the range between IT start-up and global corporation, which helps him support a diverse range of clients. Joe also holds degrees in UX, UI and Innovation, Innovation & Leadership, and Computer Science, and he is a certified Amazon Cloud Practitioner and Microsoft Azure Fundamentals professional. Besides being passionate about technology and innovation, Joe also enjoys volunteering, food, coaching, sports, and spending time with his wife Dervla and their two kids Ava and Joseph.

 

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